The "cursed soldiers" (also known as "doomed soldiers", "accursed soldiers" or "damned soldiers"; Polish: Żołnierze wyklęci) or "indomitable soldiers" Polish: Żołnierze niezłomni) is a term applied to a variety of Polish anti-Soviet or anti-communist Polish resistance movements formed in the later stages of World War II and its aftermath by some members of the Polish Underground State. The clandestine organisations continued their armed struggle against the communist government of Poland well into the 1950s. The guerrilla warfare included an array of military attacks launched against the communist regime's prisons and state security offices, detention facilities for political prisoners and concentration camps that were set up across the country. Most of the Polish anti-communist groups ceased to exist in the late 1940s or 1950s, as they were hunted down by agents of the Ministry of Public Security and Soviet NKVD assassination squads. However, the last known 'cursed soldier', Józef Franczak, was killed in an ambush as late as 1963, almost 20 years after the Soviet take-over of Poland.
The best-known Polish anti-communist resistance organisations operating in Stalinist Poland included Freedom and Independence (Wolność i Niezawisłość, WIN), National Armed Forces (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ), National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW), Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie (Underground Polish Army, KWP), Ruch Oporu Armii Krajowej (Home Army Resistance, ROAK), Armia Krajowa Obywatelska (Citizens' Home Army, AKO), NIE (NO, short for Niepodległość), Armed Forces Delegation for Poland (Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj), and Wolność i Sprawiedliwość (Freedom and Justice, WiS).
Similar Central and Eastern European anti-communists fought on in other countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union.
|The abandoned soldiers|
'Cursed soldiers' of the anti-communist underground. Left to right (June 1947):
|Role||Armed forces of the Polish Underground State and the Polish Government-in-Exile|
|Size||Varied, c. 150,000-200,000 at peak. After amnesty of 1947, 200-400 people remained in active, armed conspiracy.|
In the summer of 1944, as Soviet forces fighting against Nazi Germany advanced into Poland, the USSR set up a provisional puppet government of Poland called the Polish Committee of National Liberation. The new regime was aware that the Polish Resistance (whose chief component was the Armia Krajowa or Home Army) and Underground State loyal to the Polish government-in-exile would have to be destroyed before they could gain complete control over Poland. Future General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party Władysław Gomułka pronounced that "Soldiers of the Armia Krajowa (AK) are a hostile element which must be removed without mercy". Another prominent communist, Roman Zambrowski, said that the AK had to be "exterminated".
The Armia Krajowa officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to prevent a slide into armed conflict with the Red Army and the increasing threat of civil war over Poland's sovereignty. However, many resistance units decided to continue with their struggle for Polish independence, regarding Soviet forces as new occupiers. Soviet partisans in Poland had already been ordered by Moscow on 22 June 1943 to engage Polish Leśni partisans in combat.
According to Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's review of Bogdan Musial's Sowjetische Partisanen book "Musial’s study suggests that the Soviets seldom attacked German military and police targets. They preferred to assault the poorly armed and trained Belarusan and Polish self-defense forces. The guerrillas torched and leveled Polish landed estates much more frequently than they blew up military transports and assaulted other hard targets." The main forces of the Red Army (Northern Group of Forces) and the NKVD began conducting operations against the Armia Krajowa during and directly after the launch of Operation Tempest, the aim of which was for the Polish resistance to seize control of cities and areas occupied by the Germans while they were preparing their defenses against the advancing Soviets. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin aimed to ensure that an independent Poland would never reemerge in the postwar period.
The first AK structure designed primarily to deal with the Soviet threat was NIE (short for niepodległość "independence", and also meaning "no"), formed in mid-1943. NIE's goal was not to engage Soviet forces in combat, but rather to observe and conduct espionage while the Polish government-in-exile decided how to deal with the Soviets. At that time, the exiled government still believed that a solution leading to Poland's post-war independence could be found through negotiations.
On 7 May 1945, NIE was disbanded and transformed into the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland"). However, this organization lasted only until August 8, 1945, when the decision was made to disband it and to stop partisan resistance on Polish territory.
In March 1945 a staged trial of 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State, who had been captured and imprisoned by the Soviet Union took place in Moscow (the Trial of the Sixteen). The Government Delegate, together with most members of the Council of National Unity and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armia Krajowa, were invited by Soviet general Ivan Serov, with the agreement of Joseph Stalin, to a conference on their eventual entry into the Soviet-backed Provisional Government. They were presented with a warrant of safety, but the NKVD arrested them in Pruszków on 27 and 28 March. Leopold Okulicki, Jan Stanisław Jankowski and Kazimierz Pużak were arrested on the 27th and 12 more the following day. Alexander Zwierzynski had already been detained earlier. They were all taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow for interrogation prior to the trial. After several months of brutal interrogation and torture they were charged with false accusations of "collaboration with Nazi Germany" and of "planning a military alliance with Nazi Germany".
The Polish Committee of National Liberation declined jurisdiction over former AK soldiers. Consequently, for more than a year, it was Soviet agencies like the NKVD that dealt with the AK. By the end of the war, approximately 60,000 soldiers of the AK had been arrested, and 50,000 of them were deported to the Soviet Union's prisons and prison camps. Most of those soldiers had been captured by the Soviets during or in the aftermath of Operation Tempest, when many AK units tried to cooperate with the Red Army during their nationwide uprising against the Germans.
Other veterans were arrested when they decided to approach the communist authorities after being promised amnesty. In 1947, the government of the People's Republic of Poland proclaimed an amnesty for most of the wartime resistance fighters. The authorities expected around 12,000 people to give up their arms, but the actual number of partisans to come out of the forests eventually reached 53,000. Many of them were arrested despite promises of freedom; and after repeated broken promises during the first few years of communist rule, former AK members refused to trust the government.
After the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland") was disbanded, another post-AK resistance organisation was formed, called Wolność i Niezawisłość ("Freedom and Sovereignty"). Its primary goal was not combat - Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN) was more concerned with helping former AK soldiers make the transition from a life as partisans to that of civilians. Continued secrecy and conspiracy were necessary in light of the increasing persecution of AK veterans by the communist government. WiN was, however, much in need of funds to pay for false documents and to provide resources for the partisans, many of whom had lost their homes and entire life-savings in the war. Viewed as enemies of the state, starved of resources, and with a vocal faction advocating armed resistance against the Soviets and their Polish proxies, WiN was far from efficient. A significant victory for the NKVD and the newly created Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (UB), came in the second half of 1945, when they managed to convince several leaders of WiN that they truly wanted to offer amnesty to AK members. Within a few months, intelligence gathered by the authorities led to thousands more arrests. The primary period of WiN activity lasted until 1947. The organisation finally disbanded in 1952.
The NKVD and UB used brute force and deception to eliminate the underground opposition. In the autumn of 1946, a group of 100–200 accursed soldiers of Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces, NSZ) were lured into a trap and massacred. In 1947, Colonel Julia ("Bloody Luna") Brystiger of the Polish Ministry of Public Security proclaimed at a security briefing that: "[t]he terrorist and political underground" had ceased to be a threatening force for the UB, although the "class enemy" at universities, offices and factories still had to be "found out and neutralised."
The persecution of AK members was only one aspect of the reign of Stalinist terror in postwar Poland. In the period from 1944 to 1956, at least 300,000 Polish civilians were arrested, although some sources claim numbers up to two million. Approximately 6,000 death sentences were issued, and the majority of them were carried out. It is probable that over 20,000 people died in communist prisons including those executed "in the majesty of the law" such as Witold Pilecki, a hero of Auschwitz.
A further six million Polish citizens (i.e., one out of every three adult Poles) were classified as suspected members of a 'reactionary or criminal element' and subjected to investigation by state agencies. During the Polish October of 1956, a political amnesty freed 35,000 former AK soldiers from prisons. Nevertheless, some partisans remained in service, unwilling or simply unable to rejoin the civilian community. The cursed soldier Stanisław Marchewka "Ryba" ("The Fish") was killed in 1957, and the last AK partisan, Józef Franczak "Lalek" ("Doller"), was killed in 1963 — almost two decades after the Second World War ended. Four years later, long after the abolition of Stalinist terror, the last member of the elite British-trained Cichociemny ("The Silent and Hidden") intelligence and support group, Adam Boryczka was finally released from prison (1967). Until the end of the People's Republic of Poland, former AK soldiers were under constant investigation by the secret police. It was only in 1989, after the fall of communism, that the convictions of AK soldiers were finally declared invalid and annulled by Polish law.
The biggest battle in the history of the National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW) took place on 6–7 May 1945, in the village of Kuryłówka in southeastern Poland. The Battle of Kuryłówka fought against the Soviet 2nd Border Regiment of the NKVD, ended in a victory for the underground forces commanded by Major Franciszek Przysiężniak ("Marek"). The anti-communist fighters killed up to 70 Soviet agents. The NKVD troops retreated in haste, only to reappear in the village later on and burn it to the ground in retaliation, destroying over 730 buildings.
On 21 May 1945, a heavily armed AK unit led by Colonel Edward Wasilewski, attacked and destroyed the NKVD camp located in Rembertów on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The Soviets had incarcerated hundreds of Polish citizens there, including members of the Armia Krajowa.
One of the biggest anti-partisan operations by the communist authorities took place from 10–25 June 1945, in and around the Suwałki and Augustów regions of Poland. The "Augustów roundup" (Polish: Obława augustowska) was a joint operation of the Red Army, the Soviet NKVD, and SMERSH battalions with assistance from Polish UB and LWP units, against Armia Krajowa resistance fighters. The operation extended into the territory of occupied Lithuania. More than 2,000 suspected anti-communist Polish fighters were captured and detained in Soviet internment camps. About 600 of the "Augustow Missing" are presumed to have died in Soviet custody, their bodies buried in unknown mass graves on the present territory of Russia. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance has declared the 1945 Augustów roundup to be "the largest crime committed by the Soviets on Polish lands after World War II."
Among the best-known Polish underground organizations, engaged in guerrilla warfare were:
The following list (in most part), originates from the book Not Only Katyń (Nie tylko Katyń) by Ireneusz Sewastianowicz and Stanisław Kulikowski (Białostockie Wydawn. Prasowe, 1990); Part 10: "The Augustow Missing," compiled by the Citizen Committee for Search of Suwałki Region Inhabitants who Disappeared in July 1945 (Obywatelski Komitet Poszukiwań Mieszkańców Suwalszczyzny Zaginionych w Lipcu 1945 r., in Polish).
w 50 lat po zamordowaniu członków IV Zarządu Głównego Zrzeszenia Wolność i Niezawisłość(in Polish)
Major Adam Lazarowicz (noms de guerre "Klamra", "Pomorski", "Zygmunt", "Jadzik", "Aleksander", 1902 – March 1, 1951) was a Polish military officer who played a prominent role in the Polish resistance movement in the German-occupied Poland in the Second World War.
After the war, Lazarowicz remained in hiding and become a member of the anti-Communist organization Wolnosc i Niezawislosc, fighting for Polish independence from the Soviet Union. He was imprisoned by the Soviet imposed Communist authorities in Poland and executed on March 1, 1951, in the Mokotów Prison in Warsaw.Aleksander Krzyżanowski
Aleksander Krzyżanowski nom de guerre "Wilk" (February 18, 1895 – September 29, 1951) was a Polish army officer, colonel
member of the Polish resistance movement in World War II and Commandant of the Armia Krajowa in the Vilnius Region. After the German withdrawal from the area, on July 17, 1944 Krzyżanowski had been duped by the Soviets into a fake debriefing, arrested and thrown in jail. He died in Stalinist prison on September 29, 1951, without a trial.Amnesty of 1947
The Amnesty of 1947 in Poland was an amnesty directed at soldiers and activists of the Polish anti-communist underground, issued by the authorities of People's Republic of Poland. The law on amnesty was passed by the Polish Sejm on February 22, 1947. The actual purpose of the amnesty was the liquidation of coordinated resistance to the newly established communist regime. The promise of amnesty was not kept. Information collected during questioning of the "cursed soldiers" who had revealed themselves led to a later round of arrests and repression, including of those who stayed in hiding.
This was the second amnesty in Poland after World War II. The first one lasted from July 22, 1945 until October 15, 1945.Anti-communist resistance in Poland
Anti-communist resistance in Poland can be divided into two types: the armed partisan struggle, mostly led by former Armia Krajowa and Narodowe Siły Zbrojne soldiers, which ended in the late 1950s (see cursed soldiers), and the non-violent, civil resistance struggle that culminated in the creation and victory of the Solidarity trade union.Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies
The Central and Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies fought on after the official end of the Second World War against the Soviet Union and the communist states formed under Soviet occupation and support.
Prominent movements include:
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought until eradicated in 1956.
The anti-Soviet Hungarian Revolution took place in 1956.
Baltic partisans knew as the "Forest Brothers" fought until eradicated in the early 1960s.
Romanian anti-communist resistance movement fought until eradicated in 1962.
Polish partisans known as the "Cursed soldiers" fought until eradicated in 1963.
Bulgarian partisans known as "Goryani" fought until eradicated in the early 1960s.
Croatian partisans knew as "Crusaders" fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.
Albanian partisans (members of the Balli Kombëtar and supporters of the king Zog I) fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.
Serbian partisans knew as "Chetniks" fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.
Slovenian partisans fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.
Moldovian partisans (Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina) fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.
Some Russian White Movement members fought until eradicated in the 1960s.
Belarusian partisans fought until eradicated in the early 1950s.Edward Wasilewski
Edward Wasilewski (1923 – 22 August 1968), pseudonym Wichura (Strong gale), was one of the best known anti-communist fighters in the Polish resistance during the Soviet takeover of Poland. Under his command, 44 underground soldiers successfully attacked the NKVD camp in Rembertów on the night of 20–21 May 1945, and liberated 700–1000 NKWD prisoners. Wasilewski was arrested on 26 March 1946 and, after a year spent in prison, was broken by agents of the Ministry of Public Security. He worked as an informant until 1960, denouncing many of his former colleagues. He committed suicide by jumping out of a window in 1968, on the day of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Wasilewski grew up in Stanisławów near Mińsk Mazowiecki. He got engaged in anti-Nazi resistance as early as December 1939 – being merely 16 years old. In the summer of 1940 he joined the underground scouting group Szare Szeregi, and became one of its organizers. He entered the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) with his scouting platoon. Simultaneously, Wasilewski continued his education in a clandestine secondary – which allowed him to pass the Polish high school exam. In the Home Army, he was assigned to combat division, where he served until the end of the German occupation. In 1943 he completed a clandestine course at a cadet school and received the rank of a platoon officer. In 1944 he was promoted to the rank of the Second Lieutenant and joined the forest battalion. He ended his fight against Germany with the participation in action "Burza" (Storm).Franciszek Błażej
Captain Franciszek Błażej (noms de guerre "Roman", "Bogusław") was born on 27 October 1907 in Nosówka, in Austrian Galicia. He was a professional officer of the Polish Army and participated in the Polish September Campaign. Some time in the early 1940s, he joined the Rzeszów division of the Union for Armed Struggle (later the Home Army).
In 1945, he became a member of the Rzeszów division of the anti-Communist organization, Freedom and Independence (WiN). He was editor-in-chief of the WiN magazine "White Eagle" and, between December 1946 and fall 1947, Błażej was the director of the Southern Department of WiN. Captured by the Ministry of Public Security in November 1947 in Kraków, he was beaten and tortured in the Mokotów Prison for so long that his body started to rot and gangrene set in.
In October 1950, Błażej was sentenced to death. He was executed with a shot to the head on 1 March 1951 and his body was buried in an unknown location.Henryk Lewczuk
Henryk Lewczuk (nom de guerre "Młot" (Hammer)) (born July 4, 1923 in Chełm, died June 15, 2009 in Chełm) was a Polish soldier, member of the Home Army (AK) and the anti-communist organization Freedom and Independence (WiN), an activist in the Polish emigrant community, politician and a delegate to the Polish Sejm from 2001 until 2005.Hieronim Dekutowski
Hieronim Dekutowski (noms de guerre "Zapora", "Odra", "Rezu", "Stary", "Henryk Zagon") was a Polish boy scout and soldier, who fought in Polish September Campaign, was a member of the elite forces Cichociemni, fought in the Home Army and after World War II, fought the communist regime as one of commanders of Wolność i Niezawisłość.Janusz Bokszczanin
Podpułkownik Janusz Bokszczanin (1894, Grodno – 1973) was a colonel of the Polish Army and one of the first Polish commanders of the motorized troops in the reborn Second Polish Republic. During World War II he joined the ZWZ resistance organization and later the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). Until 1943 he served as chief of department of rapid response within its headquarters. In 1944, prior to the anti-Fascist Operation Tempest, he became the chief of operations, and deputy chief of staff of the entire Home Army (AK).Józef Batory
Józef Batory (noms de guerre "Argus", "Wojtek") was a Polish soldier and resistance fighter during World War II and after.
Batory was born on 20 February 1914 in Werynia, Poland. He fought in the 1939 Polish September Campaign, then was an active member of the anti-German resistance. In the early 1940s, he became commandant of the Kolbuszowa district of the Home Army.
From 1945 on, Batory became a leading member of the anti-Communist organization, Freedom and Independence. Apprehended by the Communist Polish secret police, the UB, some time in the late 1940s, he was executed on the evening of March 1, 1951 in the infamous Mokotów Prison in Warsaw.
The location of his grave is unknown. Batory is commemorated as one of the "Cursed soldiers" of Poland.Józef Franczak
Józef Franczak (17 March 1918 – 21 October 1963) was a soldier of the Polish Army, Armia Krajowa World War II resistance, and last of the cursed soldiers – members of the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland. He used codenames Lalek (best known), Laluś, Laleczka, Guściowa, and fake name Józef Babiński. He was a resistance fighter for 24 out of 45 years of his life.Józef Różański
Józef Różański (Polish pronunciation: [ˈjuzɛf ruˈʐaɲskʲi]; b. Josek Goldberg; Warsaw, 13 July 1907 – 21 August 1981, Warsaw) was a Officer in the Soviet NKVD Secret Police and later, a Colonel in the Ministry of Public Security and Intelligence of Poland. Born into a Jewish family in Warsaw, Różański became very active in the Communist Party of Poland before World War II. He joined the NKVD following the Soviet invasion of Poland and after the war, adopting the name Różański, served as an Agent with the Polish Communist Security apparatus (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa).
Różański was personally involved in torturing and killing dozens of opponents of the Polish People's Republic, including anti-communists. and "Cursed soldiers". He gained notoriety as one of the most brutal secret police Officers in Warsaw. Różański personally administered torture to Witold Pilecki, one of the most famous "Cursed soldiers" and the only individual who willingly went to Auschwitz Camp. Pilecki revealed no sensitive information and was executed on May 25, 1948 at Mokotów Prison by Sergeant Smietanski, the "Butcher".Józef Różański was arrested in 1953 – at the end of the Stalinist period in Poland – and charged with torturing innocent prisoners, including Polish United Workers' Party members. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison on 23 December 1955. In July 1956, the Supreme Court reopened his case due to improprieties discovered in the original investigation. On 11 November 1957 (charged along with co-defendant Anatol Fejgin), he was again sentenced by the lower court this time to 15 years in prison. He was released in 1964, having served seven years. Różański died of cancer on 21 August 1981, and was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw.Różański was a brother of Jerzy Borejsza.Mieczysław Kawalec
Mieczysław Kawalec (noms de guerre "Iza", "Zbik", "Psarski", "Stanislawski"), born in 1916 in the village of Trzciana, Rzeszów County, was a Polish resistance fighter. In the late 1930s, he graduated from the Law Department at Lwów University, and took the job of an assistant there. During the Polish September Campaign, he fought in the defence of Lwów, and in 1940 he joined the Rzeszów District of Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ) (later Armia Krajowa).
From 1945, he was the commander of the Rzeszów District of the anti-Communist organization, Freedom and Independence (WiN). Later, Kawalec moved to Kraków, joining the Department of Information and Propaganda of the 4th Headquarters of WiN, under Łukasz Ciepliński and Adam Lazarowicz. Due to betrayal, he was arrested on February 1, 1948 in Poronin and transported to the Mokotów Prison in Warsaw. Tortured during the investigation, in October 1950 he was sentenced to death four times. Kawalec was executed by a shot in the head on March 1, 1951. His body was buried in an unknown location.Operation Jungle
Operation Jungle was a program by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) early in the Cold War (1948–1955) for the clandestine insertion of intelligence and resistance agents into Poland and the Baltic states. The agents were mostly Polish, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian exiles who had been trained in the UK and Sweden and were to link up with the anti-Soviet resistance in the occupied states (the Cursed soldiers, the Forest Brothers). The naval operations of the program were carried out by German crewmembers of the German Mine Sweeping Administration under the control of the Royal Navy. The American-sponsored Gehlen Organization also got involved in the draft of agents from Eastern Europe. The KGB penetrated the network and captured or turned most of the agents.Tatra Confederation
The Tatra Confederation (Polish: Konfederacja Tatrzańska), or Confederation of the Tatra Mountains, was a Polish resistance organization operating in the southernmost Podhale region during the Nazi German occupation of Poland. The Tatra Confederation was founded in May 1941 in Nowy Targ – the historical capital of Podhale, by the poet and partisan, Augustyn Suski (nom-de-guerre Stefan Borusa); with Tadeusz Popek as his deputy. The organization had its ideological roots in the peasant movement of the mountain region of interwar Poland.The Partisans (sculpture)
The Partisans is a 1979 aluminum sculpture by the Polish-American sculptor Andrzej Pitynski that has been exhibited in Boston, Massachusetts, since 1983. The sculpture depicts Polish anti-communist "cursed soldiers". It is dedicated to freedom fighters worldwide.Władysław Gurgacz
Władysław Gurgacz (2 April 1914 – 14 September 1949) was a Polish Catholic priest, member of the Society of Jesus, and chaplain of the anti-communist underground.Zygmunt Szendzielarz
Zygmunt Szendzielarz (12 March 1910 – 8 February 1951) was the commander of the Polish 5th Wilno Brigade of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), nom de guerre "Zagończyk" or "Łupaszka". He was executed in the notorious Mokotów Prison as one of anti-communist so-called Cursed soldiers following the Soviet takeover of Poland at the end of World War II.